Community Influencer of the Year

© NY Times, Carl Richards

Last night, I was sitting at home with my husband, when I got an ominous message from Aaron Bertrand (blog|twitter):

You up? I’m about to blog about you. You’ve been warned.
~ Aaron Bertrand

Uhhh…. OK? It was 10:30 on a Friday night. I was pretty sure Aaron was still on vacation with his wife. Why would Aaron be blogging about me? And why was it so important that he would be publishing a blog post while he’s on vacation? If it’s that important, shouldn’t I know about it? Well, it must be important because he had just sent me a message to warn me. I did what any level-headed, rational person would do: I brought up Aaron’s blog and hit F5 every five seconds until the post went live.

2016 Community Influencer of the Year

I hounded Aaron for a cool badge, and he finally made one for me.

Whoa! Aaron’s post named me as his first Community Influencer of the Year. It’s a funny feeling to be the first recipient of an award. Not only was I surprised that I was in the running, I was surprised that anyone was in the running.

I am truly exhilarated and honored to receive this recognition. I can’t deny the amount of time and effort that I put into helping the community–but at the same time, I am just one of many people who are passionate about contributing to the community. I want to share my successes, my failures, my knowledge, and my naivety to help others be successful. Being recognized for having made an impact with those contributions is truly a humbling thing.

It’s perhaps a bit more startling to me because I’m still the new kid on the block. Let me explain…

2015: A year of firsts

Blogging – I’d created my blog in 2014, but it was during 2015 that I decided to start taking it seriously. Someone linked to my blog! Someone commented! It was the first confirmation I had that someone was actually reading what I wrote.

Speaking – In September 2015, I gave a lightning talk at the New England SQL Server User Group–my hometown user group. I based it on some SSMS shortcuts that I’d blogged about. I was really comfortable with the content, but the main speaker that night was Grant Fritchey (blog|twitter). My first time at the front of the room, and there were nearly 100 people in the crowd including Grant Freaking Fritchey (no pressure, right?).

Organizing – Mike Hillwig (blog|twitter) asked me to join him to help organize SQL Saturday #437 Boston BI. This was one step beyond being a volunteer–Mike made it abundantly clear that this was succession planning. If Mike got hit by a bus, I would be in charge (no pressure, right?). I’d never been to a SQL Saturday outside Boston, never spoken at a SQL Saturday, but now I was organizing one.

PASS Summit – 2015 was my first time attending PASS Summit. I spent a lot of time in the “hallway track,” meeting people, networking, and making friends. I went to Speaker Idol, and paid close attention to the feedback from the judges. If I was going to do more speaking, I wanted to do it well.

Speaking (Part 2) – I had submitted to speak at two SQL Saturdays in December 2015. I was accepted to speak at both. SQL Saturday Washington, DC became my first full-length session, followed by SQL Saturday Providence the next weekend.

2016: A year later

It’s hard to believe that I spoke at my first SQL Saturday just one year ago. My newness as a contributor to the SQL Server community makes the title of “Influencer of the year” even more surprising to me. I love being a teacher. I love helping others. Everything I did in 2016 was just an effort to do that. I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve accomplished, but it is still a huge surprise and huge honor to get this recognition.


I realize that I’m struggling with impostor syndrome, as I write this–thinking of all the people who have influenced me, thinking they probably deserve this honor instead of me. As I fight back against my impostor syndrome, I’m going to resist the urge to say I’m unworthy, and instead thank a few people who influenced me over the last year. The list could go on forever, but I think these three deserve a special shout out. All three have become both great mentors and great friends.

Mike Hillwig

Mike and I have become fantastic friends over the last couple of years. He is largely responsible for pushing me out on stage, pushing me out of my comfort zone, and helping me to realize that I have something to share. That boot to the seat of my pants was truly instrumental in my putting myself out there.

Brent Ozar

Brent has tons of published advice on blogging and presenting. I find myself constantly referencing these posts as sources of advice on how to build my personal brand, how to be better at contributing to the community. I attended his 2015 FreeCon, just as I was beginning to take blogging and speaking seriously.

Aaron Bertrand

No, not just because he gave me an award. When I first started using SQL Server, Aaron was one of the first SQLebrities of whom I took notice. I was intrigued by his take on performance, and the methodical way he went about experimenting and proving results. Long before I considered blogging or speaking, Aaron was an inspiration to the way I went about doing my work. In the past year, I’ve been able to work more closely with Aaron through my role on the SentryOne Product Advisory Council.

2017 & beyond

I’m looking forward to continuing to contribute to the community, and to live up to the role of leader & influencer. Lets see what 2017 brings to my plate…


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